Fifteen Feet

I am walking through a parking lot quickly to reach the group of kids my husband is helping to chaperone on a field trip. I am walking with a purpose; trying to catch up.
Fifteen feet to my left is the actual path; the walking path at this State Park, the path for strolling, for slowing down and taking it all in.
I don’t know why it takes me half-way through the parking lot, half the size of a football field, to decide to step up onto the grass and cross over to the path.
Immediately, the world changes all around me.
From fifteen feet in – away from the asphalt – I can see the river flowing beside this path. I didn’t see it from way over there in the business side of the park; the driving, parking, getting our things together, counting heads side… The little more stressful side of life – the part with grocery lists, alarm clocks, timecards, and paychecks that need to stretch tight to cover everything.
Parking lots now represent all that to me.
And I will forever after today search for a place to walk that is just up the curb, across the grass, fifteen feet away; where now I can see and hear the rushing water. I can smell it. I can hear the birds. I inhale audibly. I know all the good I am breathing into my heart and my spirit.
There is a spring in my step that wasn’t there a minute ago.
Then I catch up and there are 49 first-graders exploring the great outdoors, and finding snake skins and ladybugs and caterpillars. They are getting their hands dirty and picking up rocks along the path to throw into the water. They are making great splashes and all sorts of noise and my serenity is a little frantically trying to keep it together and not lose anyone.
Looking back, I see how quickly I rushed back into the parking lot state of mind.
Why did I see their gleeful delight to be outdoors as so frightening? Everything in me wants to keep them safe, and somehow I think that means contained and quiet. It really means walking fifteen feet further into the wild side and listening with my heart wide open to their howls of laughter, enjoying their reckless abandon, understanding that deliberate exuberance for life doesn’t necessarily mean they won’t look both ways when they reach the curb and go to the parking lot.
Photo Credit – I took this picture a couple weekends later at Lithia Park in Ashland, OR.

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